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April 28, 2010

Feature Story: C2E2 Coverage

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McCormick Place on the south side of Chicago played host last weekend to the inaugural Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. This year, the organizers behind events like New York Comic Con, Penny Arcade Expo, and Star Wars Celebration looked to bring Chicago an April alternative to the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con held every August.

The event didn’t officially kick off until Friday, April 16, but Thursday night Aaron Johnson and Chloe Moretz descended upon Chicago’s AMC River East Theater for the red carpet premiere of Kick-Ass. The duo walked the carpet, answering questions from the press, and sat down for a Q&A with IGN entertainment editor-in-chief Eric Moro, also fielding questions from the audience.
 
The expo officially started the next day. Its McCormick Place setting is much larger than the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill., where the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con annually takes place. The space gave the expo hall some much needed breathing room. Throughout the weekend, the crowds seemed unusually light, and I, like many of the publishers I talked to at the event, wondered if it was simply a slow event in its first year.
 
Panels, likewise, had a lot of open space. Marvel and DC only filled half of their respective rooms on Friday (though the rooms were huge), while the Dark Horse panel was only attended by a crowd of roughly 20 to 30 comic fans. Oni Press, on Saturday, had only approximately 20 attendees in the theater. Yet C2E2 organizers said roughly 28,000 people attended the event, which isn’t too shabby, and enough for the organizers to announce April 8–10, 2011 as the weekend for the second annual C2E2.
 
The expo hall itself took advantage of McCormick’s gigantic facility. Comic publishers had plenty of room to showcase their books, retailers came out in droves with great deals to keep them in competition with everyone else surrounding, and the artist alley was well organized, with a board directing fans to their favorite artists’ tables. The building at large, though, made finding the next panel sometimes difficult, and usually a hike, as the programming utilized three floors, with many panel rooms on opposite ends of the building, divided by the IGN Theatre. But the best part about the huge panel rooms? No real lines of which to speak.
 
But as is usually the case with nerd conventions, fans had the opportunity to stand in lines to acquire autographs from the likes of Carrie Fisher, the cast of Kick-Ass, and plenty of comics creators like Jeph Loeb, Garth Ennis, and Joe Quesada. Others, like Chip Kidd, Brian Azzarello, Dash Shaw, and Chicago-area resident Chris Ware were seen wandering the floor, as well as Chicago Bears Pro-Bowler Lance Briggs, who conducted a panel with some of his favorite comic creators and held a signing to raise awareness for his charity, Briggs 4 Kidz.
 
The big announcement in the realm of children’s comics news is that Oni Press has struck a deal with Wild Rain to create a book based on the hit television series Yo Gabba Gabba. Oni public relations manager Cory Casoni showed several art assets from the upcoming book, but said he could not provide additional information on the project, including whether it would be a one-shot, collector’s book or ongoing series. He also declined to answer a more pertinent question from a member of the audience: How is Oni Press turning a show about creatures dancing to music into a comic? He did, however, note that Oni Press has always had a history of music inclusion in comics, and pointed in particular to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
 
Casoni also detailed a project created by Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation, The Office) called Frenemy of the State. The concept of the series is that the world’s socialites are really spies.
 
“Rashida has been great to work with,” Casoni said. “She really wants to do a comic.”
 
The publisher also announced The Sixth Gun, by Colin Bunn and Brian Hurtt. The book, as explained by its creators, sounds like Lord of the Rings meets the Western. In the story’s mythology, there were six guns in ancient times with magical powers. One, the most powerful of the bunch has resurfaced, and the forces of evil in the world have come together to acquire it. The gun also has ill effects on the good people who come across it as well. The first issue of this, like several other comics announced at the event, will be available on Free Comic Book Day at local retailers next month.
 
Another panel, labeled “Pantheon,” featured Chip Kidd, Dash Shaw, and Chris Ware detailing their latest projects. Chip Kid is working on Shazam!: The World’s Mightiest Mortal. Similar to Bat-Manga, the book was described as a collection of Golden Age Captain Marvel comics, images of collectibles, and a general history lesson on the character and the pop culture surrounding it.
 
Dash Shaw briefly talked about his new book, Bodyworld, then talked about his creation process, and translating episodes of Blind Date to the comics medium. Chris Ware said the final book of the Acme Novelty Library is coming soon, but has been held up by his request for a very specific spine cloth that takes 6 months to produce. The cover of the book features the word “Lint.” The contents of the book detail the life of a character, one year per page.
 
“It’s an attempt to get more into the head of a character,” Ware said.
 
The Dark Horse panel was focused squarely on the publisher’s Gold Key Comics program. The panel was comprised of writer Jim Shooter, artists Dennis Calero and Bill Reinhold, and senior editor Chris Warner, who will be working together to reintroduce Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom and Magnus, Robot Fighter in serialized format. Raymond Swanland will be doing the covers.
 
“This is all new; it has nothing to do with the Valiant universe,” Shooter said. “This is the time I’ll get it right.”
 
The DC Nation panel was the usual Q&A chat with fans. DC’s panelists were coy about providing information on a number of questions related to Brightest Day, but Geoff Johns revealed Hawkman will “be a main character” in Brightest Day. DC also confirmed that the Joker would return “soon” to the main Batman story thread. Brian Azzarello also answered a question or two about First Wave, which launches with his Batman/Doc Savage one-shot.
 
“Dead means dead in the First Wave universe; I can tell you that,” Azzarello said.
 
The writer also noted he’s been having a great time working The Spirit into his stories.
 
“I like his attitude,” he explained.
 
Image Comics started talking a lot about series already on shelves, touting a number of sellouts, including Invincible Returns. The publisher talked about Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark, the zany 48-page one-shot from Ryan Ottley (Invincible) and Jason Howard (The Astounding Wolf-Man), with an origin by Robert Kirkman. Fractured Fables is set to hit shelves in July, with contributions by the likes of Jill Thompson, Peter David and Mike Allred.
 
A number of comics are on the imminent way from Nick Spencer, including Morning Glory Academy. The book is about six gifted children who are recruited to a boarding school run by bad people, Spencer said. A few pieces of art were shown, but Spencer declined to provide more details on, other than to say it’s “Runaways meets Lost.”
 
Hack/Slash is now exclusive to Image, according to public relations manager Betsy Gomez. Creator Tim Seeley said he is finishing his run for Devil’s Due Publishing, and then will start a new arc with Image.
 
“It’s kind of like Batman Year One with more blood, more boobies,” Seeley said. “We’ll be going full steam and having a lot of B-movie horror fun.”